There are a couple of things we need to understand about this statement. In the first place, the word that is translated “perfect” literally means “be complete.” So often, the New Testament and the Old Testament will describe people as being upright and righteous—not in the sense that they have achieved total moral perfection, but rather that they have reached a singular level of maturity in their growth in terms of spiritual integrity. However, in this statement, it’s certainly legitimate to translate it using the English word perfect. For example, “Be ye complete as your heavenly Father is complete.” Now remember that your heavenly Father is perfectly complete! So if we are to mirror God in that way, we are to mirror him in his moral excellence as well as in other ways. In fact, the basic call to a person in this world is to be a reflection of the character of God. That’s what it means to be created in the image of God. Long before the Sermon on the Mount, God required the people of Israel to reflect his character when he said to them, “Be ye holy even as I am holy.” He set them apart to be holy ones. The New Testament word for that is saints.
Now to the question of whether we can, in fact, . . .